April 3rd, 2007

thinky tim

Impromptu activism

As Seattle-area folks might have heard, yesterday morning there was a shooting on campus that killed two people. Police have deemed it a murder-suicide, with the alleged perpetrator being the ex-boyfriend of the victim. He had been stalking her for two months, and she had already sought help from multiple sources.

The following is a message from the university president, emailed to everyone on campus:

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I appreciate the university administration putting forth an official gesture of sympathy. However, it's also problematic in a few ways: there is no mention of the domestic violence/gendered violence aspect of the crime, which makes the murder seem like an isolated incident rather than part of a society-wide pattern. Of course, the president did acknowledge that this kind of violence happens "all too often," but note that he also characterizes it as "senseless," thereby obscuring the pervasive nature of domestic violence, particularly against women. Also, it being SARVA Week and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, he really failed when he advertised only palliative resources (grief counseling, etc.) and completely ignored the preventative action being taken on this campus right at this moment.

So. What to do about that, right? It didn't occur to me that something could be done until one of my friends forwarded to me and some other classmates the response she had sent to the president, addressing these very issues. Then, in response, another person sent another email, advocating a collective effort to get the president's attention - which finally made me realize that I could do the same (I'm a little slow ...). Emails have been sent to the campus newspaper as well, so that in case the president doesn't respond at least someone will know.

How simple was that? There was ignorance; we spoke against it. It was a simple thing to do, and I don't know how much effect it will have. But at least it was a way for us to take action against a problem.

As I learn how to engage in activism, there are a lot of reasons to get discouraged, so I'm glad to have this small example of how it can be easy.

By the way: I encourage all members of the University of Washington to join in writing these emails, so the president can see how many people care about this issue.